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Sarah Mancoll


Remembering Dr. Jim Sidanius

Sarah Mancoll, MS, SPSSI Policy Director

“Although Jim was a student of social dominance, he was a model of egalitarianism.”
– Dr. Michele Wittig, Past SPSSI President

Dr. James (Jim) H. Sidanius died on June 29, 2021 at the age of 75. Dr. Sidanius was the John Lindsley Professor of Psychology in memory of William James and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. As reported in the Harvard Gazette, he was perhaps best known for his “pioneering theory of social dominance, honed over decades of research. His central thesis, developed in the early 1990s with Felicia Pratto, a professor of psychological sciences at the University of Connecticut, was that human societies are structured along hierarchies of three types: age, gender, and arbitrary markers of race, ethnic group, class, or other association that can change over time and under particular economic or demographic conditions.”

Post-Doctoral Fellow Adriane Roso interviewed Dr. Sidanius in 2018 and shared many fascinating anecdotes from his life in the article that resulted from those interviews. As she relayed to the reader—and as the Harvard Crimson also explained in his obituary—Dr. Sidanius was born in the United States and was involved with Black nationalism and anti-war activism as a young man. Being unsatisfied with U.S. policy decisions, he decided to leave the United States, traveling to Canada, Cuba, Algeria, and France. From there he moved to Sweden, where he became a refugee, giving up both his American citizenship and his original surname (as “Brown” was the surname of the slave owner who had owned his ancestors).

As Roso tells it, “He wanted to have the name of Uhuru, which means ‘freedom’ in Swahili, but Sweden didn’t allow names like that, because they were too difficult for Swedes to understand and pronounce. The way he could legally change his name was to go through the Royal Patent Office in Stockholm and pick out a name that was computer generated. There was a Gigantic book of names which was available, and Sidanius was the name he found the least ugly.” After 14 years of living as a refugee in Sweden—where he earned his PhD at Stockholm University—he returned to the United States.

In their obituary for Dr. Sidanius, the International Society for Political Psychology noted that, “Despite his vast record of accomplishment, Jim was always humble and generous with students and colleagues alike. Beloved by his students and postdocs, he was delighted whenever his mentees were able to bring solid empirical evidence on key questions—also, and perhaps especially, when it contradicted his own previous theoretical intuitions (which was not often). Though he expected much of his students, he always did so with deep respect and with complete confidence in their ability to deliver—and he was always ready to provide whatever support his students required along the way. His door was always open, both literally and figuratively. He was one of life’s greats, and endlessly kind. Jim was beloved by his wife Miriam, his son Che and daughter-in-law Kate, and toddler-aged grandchild. His enormous presence will be missed always, but his influence will live on.”

Dr. Sidanius co-authored two papers that received SPSSI’s Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize. He also co-authored two papers that received honorable mention. In addition, he co-authored three papers in SPSSI journals over the course of his career. All of these papers are listed below. If you are a SPSSI member, please log into SPSSI’s journals through our website to access the full papers.

Above from left to right: Drs. Michele Wittig, Ludwin Molina, Yuen Huo, Stacey Sinclair, Shana Levin, Jim Sidanius, and Josh Rabinowitz. This photo was taken in 2008 at a SPSSI symposium in Chicago on intergroup relations. Thank you to Dr. Michele Wittig for sharing these wonderful photos with SPSSI!

SPSSI-Relevant Scholarship by Dr. Jim Sidanius & Colleagues

Bergh, R., Akrami, N., Sidanius, J., & Sibley, J. (2016). Is group membership necessary for understanding generalized prejudice? A re-evaluation of why prejudices are interrelated. Journal of Personality Psychology, 111(3), 367-395. [Allport Prize Winner]

Guimond, S., Levin, S., Crisp, R.J., De Oliveira, P., Kamiejski, R., Kteily, N., Kuepper, B., Lalonde, R.N., Pratto, F., Tougas, F., Sidanius, J., & and Zick, A.(2013). Diversity policy, social dominance, and intergroup relations: Predicting prejudice in changing social and political contexts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(6), 941-958. [Allport Prize Winner]

Levin, S., Sinclair, S., Sidanius, J., & Van Laar, C. (2009). Ethnic and university identities across the college years: A common in-group identity perspective. Journal of Social Issues, 65(2), 287-306.

Major, B., Gramzow, R., McCoy, S., Levin, S., Schmader,T., & Sidanius, J. (2002). Perceiving personal discrimination: The role of group status and legitimizing ideology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(3), 269-282. [Allport Prize Honorable Mention]

Sidanius, J., Cling, B.J., & Pratto, F. (1991). Ranking and linking as a function of sex and gender role attitudes. Journal of Social Issues, 47(3), 131-149.

Sidanius, J., Van Laar, C., Levin, S., & Sinclair, S. (2004). Ethnic enclaves and the dynamics of social identity on the college campus: The good, the bad, and the ugly. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(1), 96-110. [Allport Prize Honorable Mention]

Sinclair, S., Sidanius, J., & Levin, S. (2010). The interface between ethnic and social system attachment: The differential effects of hierarchy-enhancing and hierarchy-attenuating environments. Journal of Social Issues, 54(4), 741-757.

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